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Photos: A mother’s story of survival in drought-ridden Malawi

BY   July 18, 2016 at 2:35 PM EST
Alinafe and her young daughter walk through the dried fields of Malawi. Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF

Alinafe and her young daughter walk through the dried fields of Malawi. Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF

Editor’s Note: As one of the worst droughts ever recorded in Southern and Eastern Africa continues, photojournalist Sebastian Rich has been documenting the desperate lives of the most vulnerable affected in Malawi and Mozambique for UNICEF. View his photos below.


Alinafe is a 30-year-old single mother of four children, ranging in age from 10 to 2. Her list of hardships seems never-ending.

Alinafe’s husband left her for another woman and hasn’t been seen since. Her little brick house was torn apart in a storm.

She and the children — Janet, 10, Kelvin, 8, Innocent, 6, and Desire, 2 — now live in a shelter built from the husks and chaff of maize plants. The family does everything — sleep, eat, wash — in this small, fragile space.

A nearby dry patch of land yielded a small harvest last year but now lies barren. The family’s daily meal is a handful each of dried peas called “nandoko”’ or “pigeon peas.”

Once a month, Alinafe takes 2- year-old Desire, wearing a petite blue hat and rust-colored dress, to the Balaka district hospital to be weighed and given a basic heath check. She also gets a month’s supply of Plumpy Nut, a protein-packed peanut paste, which helps her survive.

According to UNICEF, more than 1 million children in Southern and Eastern Africa, like Desire, need treatment for severe acute malnutrition.

Alinafe hasn't been able to grow anything in the drought-stricken field near their home this year. Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF

Alinafe hasn’t been able to grow anything in the drought-stricken field near their home this year. Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF

Alinafe and her children stand in front of their home in the Balaka district of Malawi. Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF

Alinafe and her children stand in front of their home in the Balaka district of Malawi. Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF

Alinafe (center) and her children eat dried peas amid Malawi's drought. Her oldest daughter (from left) Janet is 10, Kevin is 8, Desire is 2, and Innocent is 6. Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF

Alinafe (center) and her children eat dried peas amid Malawi’s drought. Her oldest daughter (from left) Janet is 10, Kevin is 8, Desire is 2, and Innocent is 6. Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF

The boys, Innocent and Kelvin, reach for some dried peas called "nandoko." Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF

The boys, Innocent and Kelvin, reach for some dried peas called “nandoko.” Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF

Their little mud house was destroyed in a storm. Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF

Their little mud house was destroyed in a storm. Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF

The family shelters in a hut made from maize plants. Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF

The family shelters in a hut made from maize plants. Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF

Alinafe and her daughter Desire, who is suffering from severe acute malnutrition caused by the drought, prepare to get a medical screening in town. Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF

Alinafe and her daughter Desire, who is suffering from severe acute malnutrition caused by the drought, prepare to get a medical screening in town. Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF

Alinafe and her daughter Desire get a health screening at the Balaka District Hospital in Malawi. Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF

Alinafe and her daughter Desire get a health screening at the Balaka District Hospital in Malawi. Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF

Families in the drought-stricken area of Malawi get protein bars at the hospital. Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF

Families in the drought-stricken area of Malawi get protein bars at the hospital. Photo by Sebastian Rich for UNICEF

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